It’s games like these between two fringe Top 25 teams — Baylor is ranked No. 25 in the AP Poll, while Colorado received 83 votes — that make or break resumes come March. In Dallas on Friday evening, Baylor grinded out a 72-60 victory against Colorado. The Bears led for much of the game, and fended off a late Buffaloes rally to earn the win.
An aggressive statement to make in November on opening night already discussing tournament resumes? Yes, without question. But, how often do coaches and teams analyze their own resumes in March and stare at a game that is the difference between earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and being one of the last teams out, or even between a No. 5 seed and No. 8 seed? Colorado is going to have a good season, and this win will be a feather in Baylor’s cap.
Colorado wasn’t at their best tonight. Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker — two of Colorado’s top players — combined to shoot 7-28 from the field; a performance like that from these two may not happen again this season. Nevertheless, this is a solid win for a Scott Drew and his Baylor squad looking to get back to the NCAA Tournament after missing out last year.
The much maligned Baylor defense over the past few seasons stood tall against Colorado allowing just 60 points on 31.8% shooting. Ironically enough, it was the defense and toughness — how often can you say that about Baylor? — that willed the Bears’ way to a win. Furthermore, Baylor found their point guard in the form of Kenny Chery who will fill the void Pierre Jackson left. Chery spent two seasons at State Fair Community College in Sedalia, MO prior to transferring to Baylor. Against Colorado, Chery stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, four rebounds, and four assists.
Colorado is a good basketball team — a Top 25 caliber team. They didn’t look it tonight, but Dinwiddie and Booker are much better than they showed. It was an off night for the two — and really for the entire team as a whole with the exception of Josh Scott — but they will be fine going forward.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.